Friday, August 30, 2013


All the forlorn paths,
the sadness led to this
ground beneath his feet; all the possibilities
of the future rest upon his shoulders:
a vice that presses and molds the child
into the shape and likeness of a man;
the man into a crumpled
heap of broken childhood.

Thursday, August 08, 2013


8 August 2013

I drove down to Pensacola,
thinking all along I'd rather he was driving
beside me, if only I could not be alone.
The past can be a fickle thing--one moment
benign, the next a falcon ready to strike,
ready to take, ready to rise from the mind
with this or that memory I might prefer
not to drag from the depths.

I came away glad for the dredging
of the past. No corpses, only
bittersweetness like coffee made just right;
a song that makes me laugh and weep;
the sound of Reveille waking me
from a dead sleep.

I drove home from Pensacola
preserving a pink paper crane on the seat
beside me. She graces now the doorway
of a great gift of life that precludes
neither past nor present,
nor all the chaos in between.

For The Ones Who Married Young

Co-Written by Rich & Carie Maria Bowen

Various of our friends post articles now and then about the joys of marrying young and growing up together in harmony. The most recent of these was here, and is a beautiful story, full of sweet moments and good advice.

We are truly, deeply happy for our friends who had that experience.

There were times, of course, when we each, separately, assumed that they were lying, just as we were, in order to tell the story that everyone around them expected to hear. Twenty years on, it's both delightful and deeply humbling to see that they weren't - or that, even if they were, they managed to work through it and build happiness on top of the sad times.

But that's not our story. This one is for those of us who married young and watched it fall apart. Because you need to know that there’s more to your story than regret, and watching other people get lucky and find happy--hard, but happy--the first time around.

We both married young and unwise, and, although beautiful things came from those years (most obviously our beautiful, brilliant, talented older children), those decisions to were terrible, terrible mistakes. Mistakes that could have been avoided, at least for one of us, if we'd listened to those same dear friends, and actually opened our eyes to the various red flags.

But, as we mentioned, we were young, and so very unwise.

Our mistakes are put squarely in front of us, every single day of our lives. This is true even though my now-wife and I have found in each other a best friend, and each day is better than the one before. Our mistakes influence decisions we make every single day. My mistakes have a profound effect on my wife, and hers on me.

And so when we see these articles encouraging people to jump in with both feet while they're young and unwise, naturally, we don't have the same teary-eyed response that others might have. Our teary-eyed response is for years and opportunities lost. It is for the pain that our kids go through every time they talk about their parents, every time someone asks what their mailing address is, every time someone invites them to a birthday party and they have to figure out which home they're in that weekend. For the confusion that our youngest has when her siblings go away for days at a time and she doesn't understand why, and the stab of anger and sadness and whatever-it-is when she asks why she doesn't get to have two houses, too.

Please, don't stop posting those articles, particularly if they are written as compassionately as the one mentioned above. The compassion for those of us who failed made that one readable. And the advice in the article was also relevant to those of us trying to make another go of it.

And please don't ever, ever hear us saying that if you are having a hard time of it, move on and you'll find someone better. We are, as the Bible puts it, "as one escaping through the flames." Neither of us recommends it to anyone. Every time someone comes to us, as the presumed expert, to ask our advice about whether they should leave their spouse, it breaks our hearts. We can identify with the pain, but it is a jump from one flame to another, and nobody can tell you which fire is worse.

Please also understand if we don't "like" or comment on posts about early marriage on Facebook, or share them with our friends. Even on the other side of our respective tragedies, the flames can still burn.

But as we said, our story does not end with us looking back over our shoulder at what was irretrievably lost.

If you share our brand of brokenness, you need to know (if you haven’t learned it already) that there’s more to it than regret. There’s opportunity for healing and redemption (with or without remarriage); to see the glory of a Thing Made Whole Again, and when the light shines through the pieces, it’s a breathtaking sight to behold, especially from the Inside.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

First Hand

11 July 2013
Folks who know you think,
"Ah, yes, I saw that coming," or
"Huh. I always liked her, I wonder
if I was mistaken" or, to a friend,
"I dodged that bullet."
Strangers think--
well, who knows what they think,
but they must think something?
They're the ones with questions
they won't ask-- it wouldn't be polite.
But they wonder which
part of you someone couldn't live with,
and when they'll have the knowledge
first hand.


11 July 2013

No one was really popular back then,
or if they were, there was a different standard
that had little to do with what we wore
or who we dated.

Longevity was key, and few had it.
Most of us came and went like tides
and the flotsam they deliver,
then drag back out.

I never thought of myself as part of the beach.
I always felt odd-man-out until now. It's clearer
twenty years on--we were all flotsam. No one really
belonged on those beaches, though some stayed put
longer than others, estranged in a different sense.
We belonged together on the waves, or longing
from the beach, bound by memories,
tears and letters;

We belonged on the waves, moving,
always moving,
waiting to see the next beach,
wondering if this or this or this would finally be
the place we never leave.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Chastened Inspiration

I'm not one for prevailing methods of primping--
daily hair-styling, make up, and hot oil treatments
have always seemed, to me, a waste of time and effort.
I have my own sense of winsomeness, my own
habits and ways of enhancing my outward strengths
that don't include padding the pockets of Paul Mitchell,
Ulta, Mac, and Chi.

But now and again, I get inspired to experiment
with tools and treatments unfamiliar to me,
by nobody's fault but my own:

You'd think coconut oil is coconut oil,
but you'd be wrong. I learned the hard way
as I meticulously massaged coconut oil
scented vaseline into my scalp, enthusiastically ensured
the petroleum jelly reached every hair follicle from the source
outward, down the shaft length of every hair,
to the very split ends I was resolved to address.

Ten washes later (six with dish soap),
I'm finally feeling a little less like a duck in an oil slick.
My hair is more than a little worse for wear,
my inspiration for beauty treatments chastened.

Monday, April 15, 2013


No one warns a woman about the quiet
milestones--less celebrated than Double Digits,
Sweet Sixteen, Twenty-One, and the year 
our insurance payments decrease dramatically,
magically with the turning of a quarter-century.
The Silent Others we don't mark until they're behind,
sometimes years gone--
the passage from Maiden to Matron;
the moments that sneak up behind and whisper
"You've missed your youth." Your washboard belly,
your innocence gone for good, but you don't remember 
ever having fully appreciated that form of beauty.
You spent an inordinate amount of time shamefacedly
focusing on your spindly naivete until you found yourself
entrenched in this new form of loveliness.
You'd better get cracking learning to believe this frame
and faltering wisdom are desirable in whatever forms
you need to be found desirable.
What a loss to waste this time, find yourself
silently, irretrievably lost; tenuously alien again.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Renaissance Man

26 February 2013

Do you think da Vinci knew
he was The Renaissance Man?
Did he know, in his time, the lines he drew,
the connections he made between disciplines were genius
far beyond his personal interest? Did he have a sense
of the greatness, the significance of his daily tasks?
Perhaps they struck him as mundane.
Personally, I think he lacked focus, constantly
flitting from one medium to another, attending
for moments to a discipline before rushing off
to discover a new facet of his work.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013


26 February 2013

I dusted off my sandals yesterday. It's early
but, I reasoned, I'm willing the warm weather out.
My sweater boots are on the floor, baiting
my bone-chilled feet. I was holding out,
putting them off, postponing the inescapable
until I realized I'm wearing three layers,
a scarf and leg warmers,
trying to retain the heat that's pouring out,
waning to luke-warmth through the soles of my feet,
weakly warming the cold, painted floor, 
the same concrete that will keep me cool
once summer finally comes.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Jack of All Trades

24 February 2013

I'd like to drop the sentimentality,
write something honest. I'd like to share the moment
when the baby was enjoying her bubble bath.
I was listening to Billy Joel, remembering
how it felt, years ago, to be a pianist--an amateur
as always, but a musician nonetheless.
It's very like being a carpenter,
a silversmith,
a seamstress for a moment,
though it's hard now to find a moment to decide
which point of interest to choose, where to excel.
I'm still a Jack of all the trades I encounter,
a master of none of them. Even this poem
comes haltingly, and I second guess the content,
the form,
the poet.

George MacDonald

"Home is ever so far away in the palm of your hand, and how to get there it is of no use to tell you. But you will get there; you must get there; you have to get there. Everybody who is not at home, has to go home."

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